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Buah Kawista Fruit
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Buah Kawista is a round to ovate fruit, averaging 5 to 12 centimeters in diameter, and has a hard, woody, and white to light brown shell. The shell's surface is rough, scaly, and crusty, similar to the texture of tree bark, and there is often a small hole at the top of the fruit where it was once connected to the tree. The round hole emits a pungent, buttery aroma often likened to a mix of blue cheese, eggnog, and raisins, and the scent is frequently used to determine the fruit’s ripeness. Beyond the strong odor, it is nearly impossible to determine the fruit's ripeness just by appearance alone. To test for maturity, the fruit is traditionally dropped on the ground from a height of about one foot, and if the fruit bounces, it is not ripe. Once the hard shell is cracked open, there is a sticky, fibrous, and mealy flesh ranging in color from ivory, orange-brown to dark brown, depending on maturity. Inside the creamy flesh, there is an assortment of many edible, crunchy, and slightly slippery white seeds and chewy bristles. Buah Kawista has a sugary, sharp, and acidic flavor combined with sweet and sour, buttery, tamarind-like notes.
Buah Kawista is available during the monsoon season in Indonesia, generally from November to March.
Buah Kawista, botanically classified as Limonia acidissima, is a hard-shelled fruit belonging to the Rutaceae family. The pungent, sweet and sour fruits grow on wide-spreading trees reaching 12 meters in height and are native to regions of Asia and Southeast Asia. Buah Kawista is widely used in India and Sri Lanka in both culinary and medicinal applications and is more commonly known in local markets as the Wood apple. Outside of India, the name Buah Kawista is a term used in Indonesia to describe the fruits, and the variety is also known regionally as Buah Kawis and Kawi. Kawista trees take over 15 years to bear fruit and are mostly found scattered in Indonesia's warm coastal regions in home gardens as a specialty fruit tree. The fruits are only harvested once they have fallen to the ground and are primarily eaten fresh or blended into fruit juices and drinks. The hard shell of Buah Kawista is also used to make serving bowls, decorative containers, or ashtrays.
Buah Kawista is an excellent source of fiber to stimulate the digestive tract and has been used in folk medicines as a natural detoxifier. The fruits are also a good source of calcium to strengthen bones and teeth, iron to build the protein hemoglobin for oxygen transport through the blood, and vitamin C to reduce inflammation. In traditional medicines of Southeast Asia, the fruits are utilized for their antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Buah Kawista has an unusual, sweet and sour flavor best showcased when consumed fresh or mixed with a few simple ingredients. The outer shell is tough and can be cracked open using the back of a knife or crushed on the ground. Once opened, the flesh can be scooped out with a spoon and eaten as is, or it can be sprinkled with sugar for a sweeter flavor. In Sri Lanka, the flesh is popularly mixed with coconut milk and palm sugar to create a sweet, slightly acidic beverage, a favorite drink for hot weather. Buah Kawista is also used to flavor smoothies and shakes, blended into ice cream and shaved ice, or cooked into jams, chutneys, and jellies. In regions of Indonesia, Buah Kawista is incorporated into tarts known as nastars or a toffee-like, sticky confection known as dodol. Buah Kawista pairs well with citruses such as limes, calamondins, oranges, and lemons, coconut milk, sugar, chocolate, chile peppers, onions, cardamom, and tamarind. Whole, unopened Buah Kawista can be kept at room temperature for up to 10 days or stored in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 months. Once opened, the flesh should be consumed immediately for the best quality. Buah Kawista can also be frozen in a mixture of lemon juice for up to six months.
In the city of Rembang in Central Java, Buah Kawista is famously processed into a sticky, brown syrup known as Kawis syrup. The coastal city is a part of the Rembang Regency, located along the northeastern coast of the province of Central Java, known for its tropical, warm lowlands. Rembang’s climate is well-suited for Buah Kawista, and the majority of the Kawista trees are planted in the home gardens of Rembang residents. Buah Kawista is considered a rare fruit in the rest of Indonesia and has been processed into syrup in Rembang since 1925, sold as a favored souvenir. Many Indonesians travel to Rembang solely to purchase the dark brown syrup, and there are multiple producers, with the most famous being Cap Dewa Burung. Buah Kawista contributes a complex blend of sugary, sweet, and sour flavors, and the syrup is often likened to the taste of carbonated colas. Kawista syrup is primarily served over ice and is nicknamed the Javanese cola. Despite the syrup’s increasing popularity, Kawista trees have dwindled in availability due to the lack of commercial cultivation in Rembang. Since many of the trees are planted in home gardens, there is a lack of infrastructure to expand production, limiting the number of syrups made each year.
Buah Kawista is native to Asia and Southeast Asia, specifically India and neighboring countries spanning to China, and has been growing wild since ancient times. The first known reference of Buah Kawista was recorded in texts dating back to the 1st century BCE under the name Wood apple, and the fruits were widely cultivated throughout India for religious and medicinal purposes. It is unknown when Buah Kawista arrived in Indonesia, but the fruits were most likely spread through trade and are considered rare, primarily found in the provinces of East and West Nusa Tenggara, on the island of Java in Rembang, Turban, and Pati, and in the province of Aceh on Sumatra Island. Today Buah Kawista can be widely found under other common names in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Bangladesh and is rarely found in Indonesia.